“The Handmaid’s Tale” book response and April selection!

I don’t know what your political affiliations are, but sometimes I feel that even as we march towards a “better” future, we are also slowly creeping towards a dystopian world. A world in which computers know more than we do, when separation anxiety from a device is real, when corporations have more rights than the workers who power them… you get the idea. So, reading dystopian novels like 1984 and Brave New World fill me with dread and at the same time fascination. The Handmaid’s Tale was a big gap in the dystopian genre that I’d always meant to fill, and now I have! It isn’t that common for the genre to have a female protagonist, and I found that it made the troubling alternate reality more personal instead of societal.

The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood book club response

When I picked this up, I already knew that some people had been comparing it to “America under a totally Republican-led government.” What I didn’t know was it had been written in the mid 80s as a response to the rise of the Moral Majority’s attempts to move women from the workforce back into the role of mother and homemaker. So, I suppose in some regard this comparison was intended by the author, 30 years ago? Instead, I read it through the lens of someone who has studied global politics including [the lack of] women’s rights in Saudia Arabia, and in Afghanistan under the Taliban (click if you want to be informed, and depressed). Households in these countries, recently and currently, give women little to no autonomy. They are literally treated like family property. And this isn’t the 1800s or the 1950s, this is the 2000s.

Do I ever think the US will reach the level of a totally male-led theocracy? No. Do I think there are men in power who do seek to purposely suppress the rights of women? Sure. Do I think there will be enough of them to enforce a regimented caste system among women like in this book? Of course not. Especially if we (women) and our allies keep our eyes open. I am encouraged by the January Women’s Marches. People across the US are more plugged in and involved with causes than they have been in decades, and regarding a lot of topics, too. Gender issues, minority issues, disability issues, nature and food issues, etc.

Spoilers between this photo and the next one. 

The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood book club response

Aside from the current event commentary, the main question with regards to The Handmaid’s Tale is… what happens to Offred after the narration stops? I believe the answer to that question divides people into optimists and pessimists; I think the author wants it that way. First you have to think about how Offred got to the point of telling her tale at all. Increasingly audacious steps of rule-breaking:

  • Revealing to Ofglen that she is not a True Believer
  • Meeting with the Commander in private, including, gasp, reading
  • Going to Jezebel’s and getting secret information from Moira
  • Her arrangement with Serena Joy—including her continued liaisons with Nick
  • Finally, the rescue, which I believe was orchestrated by Nick

It is my hypothesis that she records her tale in a safe house, and stores the tapes in that safe house before being transported out of the country. That is what I hope happens. It is just as likely that she is apprehended on her way out of the country. I guess I’m an optimist and hope it’s the former. Many people in my discussion group wondered if she ever saw her daughter again. I guess it’s because I’m not a mother but I honestly hadn’t thought about that. What do you think?

The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood book club response

The Handmaid’s Tale comes out on Hulu April 26. Netflix and Hulu have really been bringing it in regards to original programming lately. Our TV antenna picks up no channels so we depend on Hulu to watch current shows like New Girl and This Is Us. So here’s where I give you my referral code if you aren’t already a customer. If you sign up I get $10! Check out Hulu for 2 weeks free, on me! Plans start at $7.99 after 1st 2 weeks. Terms apply.

As always leave your comments below or link me to your review if you’ve already posted it on Goodreads or Amazon. I would love to read your take.


Virtual Book ClubLast night we held our monthly discussion group on facebook. If you’d rather discuss our monthly reads over there (normally the last Tuesday of the month), instead of in the comment section here, message me on facebook to be added.

For April, our group sought out something “springy” and decided that growth fit the theme. We voted and selected A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. I am really excited to re-read this; it is one of my favorite books.  Please join along with Libby, Steph, and the rest of our group as we read together.